Cyberwars have the capability to disable and destroy communications at all levels of war. The fact is well noted by India, as its adversaries have advanced to fifth-generation cyber warfare and portraying cyber offensive capabilities. This has triggered several internal security issues, with Khalistani ideology being the priority in the country.
India needs to level up its game in cyber offensive capabilities as attacks from Chinese and Pakistani hackers have subsequently increased. Ankit Fadia, India’s youngest and first certified ethical hacker believes that cyber terrorism is the next big threat for India since it lags behind in cybersecurity. He added that though the Indian intelligence regularly uses Indian hackers to carry out counter-offensives, the quantum of such work being carried out is a lot less than it is in China and Pakistan.
As a matter of fact, the Indian government is planning to recruit elite hackers that would spy upon hostile nations and improve India’s cyber offensive front. The hired professionals will be protected by law.
In 2010, the Economic Times reported that National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), responsible for providing technical intelligence to internal and external security agencies, along with Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) would be in charge of the cyber-offensive capabilities in India.
Over time, neighbouring adversaries have launched several attacks on Indian cyber networks. Chinese hackers have not only stolen Indian secrets using popular Web social networking services and email accounts but also compromised networks around the globe. Chinese state-sponsored group’s recent attack on India targeted at least a dozen Indian organisations, all of which were qualified as critical infrastructure.
Red Echo’s actions were aimed at potential access to Indian networks and insertion of malware to support its strategic objectives. The experts suggested that alleged intrusions by Chinese groups expanded from the Indian power sector to numerous government and defence organisations.
Pakistan is another country with a history of hostile encounters with India. In aftermath of recent cyber crises, the persistent adversary has promoted in-group solidarity and diversionary conflicts. This is visible in the form of territorial disputes or “anti-India” psychological warfare (psy-war) being fought on social media platforms.
The psy-warfare has become important since Pakistan cannot win a conventional war against India. With China’s help, it is becoming more potent in operating anti-India campaigns both inside and outside the country. To counter such hybrid versions of psy-war, India is taking help from private actors and ethical hackers to launch counter-offensives.
Indian APT groups: APT C-35 and Dark Basin have played an important role in operating phishing campaigns against adversaries. APT C-35 Indian mercenaries launched several phishing websites and mobile apps relating to Referendum 2020 as bait to target pro Khalistan Sikhs in India. Similarly, Dark Basin operated phishing campaigns against contested legal proceeding, advocacy issues, or business deal. It was considered a state-sponsored hack-for-hire group.
The current trends of strategies and attacks upon adversaries clearly suggest that South Asia’s next crisis on the cyber platform is happening sooner than expected. India’s need of the hour is to employ hackers and hack-for-hire groups to safeguard networks and fight cybercrime before evil intrusions in cyberspace escalate to much greater conflict stages.
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